The Prototype of a Bulgarian Village: Old, Empty, Poor

The sign saying Zlatusha announces the village of that name. Located some 25 kilometers from the capital Sofia, and 30 kilometers from the border to Serbia, at the edge of Sofia province, this village is one of hundreds in the country, which all look similar.

In what might be called the good times from the perspective of this village, up to a thousand people of all ages lived here. Today, the average age is way beyond 60. There are hardly any young inhabitants or families. Around a hundred elderly Bulgarians, mostly ladies, are left. Many of their husbands died, while everyone else got out of there.

There is some life in this backyard. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Zlatusha is surrounded by picturesque mountains, a little river runs through the village, and the air over here is a million times better than what people breathe in Sofia. On top of that, it is quiet. Once in a while, a dog barks. Someone in this villages might use a chain saw now and then, but the general quietude really feels good, especially to those living in the loud capital.

The only business in town is some kind of a café. This Saturday, a travel group of 15 people invades the place, in order to buy bottled water, Coca Cola and chocolate. The young man running this place has probably not seen this many guests since 1970, when he was not even conceived yet.

The old chapel in the village just got a halfhearted refurbishment. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

There used to be a school in Zlatusha, on the main square. The building which housed it, many years ago, is falling apart, just like so many houses here. It is easy to imagine what this school must have looked like some 30 years ago. Some of the family homes with broken walls and huge cavities in their roofs seem to be telling stories too, of someone who lived here and used the old furniture, which is still all over the place, in piles.

The village school is abandoned. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The café mentioned seems to be closed most of the time. The village also has one traffic light, which is shaking back and forth in the wind and does not work, one tiny post office located in something like a shed and one small medical facility. The latter looks abandoned.

A good roof keeps the rain out of the living room. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

On the two small cemeteries, trash is covering many of the graves. An estimated fourth of all houses have already fallen apart, literally, others will follow rather soon. Even the guard dogs chained to their hutches are not well at all. Most of them are far too thin and it seems like they are probably never being let off their chains. It hurts to even look at these poor creatures.

The only new item in Zlatusha is this cross. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Yes, typical Bulgarian villages, like Zlatusha, are usually located in a beautiful countryside, because this country has a lot of beauty to offer. What they do not have is work. There is absolutely no job in Zlatusha or most other villages in this country. That is exactly why no young inhabitants are left.

There is not much going on a number 16. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Most of them traded this quiet place with Sofia, the loud and polluted capital. Not because they wanted to, but because they had absolutely no choice. One younger couple from Zlatusha managed to find work in Spain. Now they are home for a week or two. Their old 3-series BMW with Spanish number plates and torn seat covers is parked in front of the so-called café.

Most former inhabitants of Zlatusha are either gone or dead. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

There is one aspect which makes this village unique, in the eyes of some inhabitants. Former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s father was born here. Maybe that is why quite a percentage of the few inhabitants usually vote for GERB, Borissov’s center-right party. Others tend to choose the Socialists, maybe because Zlatusha must have looked very different in communist times, since people were still here, and the school was open.

The last person who lived in this house died years ago. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Because of the prominent former inhabitant, three GERB campaign posters are decorating the village. All of them show a photo of Boyko Borissov in a uniform, which the author does not want to describe or compare to anything. The picture was taken when Borissov Junior was chief secretary at the Ministry of the Interior in Sofia, with the rank of a general. In Zlatusha, a photo like this one will make people stand in awe of him. But the campaign poster is really the only benefit of the Borissov family’s connection with this godforsaken place.

Most houses in Zlatusha were built by their owners themselves. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

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